Review by DeathMage4
Huge sandbox, not much sand.
The entire concept of Spore is a good one. An entire galaxy of creativity, from cells to space ships, buildings, creatures, tribes, you can create and play nearly any way you like. But all of this freedom comes with a price, there's a good diversity of what to do, but much of it is fairly limited and shallow. Most of the stages are over too quickly to do much with them, and those that aren't end up being exorcises in repetition, redundancy, and just doing the same things over and over again. The obvious focuses of the game were the Creature stage and the Space stage.
The former actually being the most entertaining. Cell stage is over quickly, and you're pretty limited to what you can create there. Tribal and Civilization stages seem preliminary, just thrown in as filler between Creature and Space. Creature has a decent amount of variety and interaction. You can do just as well soothing your enemies as attacking them. Make allies, make enemies, wipe out creatures or have everyone on your side. But all you're doing mostly is interacting one to one with other creatures, make your choice on how to proceed with that creature, do it, then move on to the next.
Space, however, seems too mission/money oriented. Even if you're a war faring or peace loving culture, you need money to equip your ship. You become economist by default. Terra forming doesn't really net you money (except to expand your colonies, which becomes almost a must on rare spice worlds), nor does attacking, compared to what you can do with a few simple colonies, especially if you're fortunate enough to get all six spices near your planet. In the end, it feels like you're just going through the motions, completing tasks for badges, just to complete them. Once you've been to the center of the galaxy, or blown up Earth (odd that they get the name for Sol right, but miss Luna and Terra), what's left to do? Start again from scratch and repeat the whole process?
Even the major attraction of creation of creatures, vehicles, and buildings seems limited, with such a small number of parts available for each. Even then, most authors end up in patterns of repeating their favorite designs, or reusing the same parts over and over, while ignoring others all together. Painting becomes especially problematic, with a very limited selection of bland colors available, unless one uses a custom color scheme. Then, you can get some sharp colors, but ONLY if you use that particular scheme, no mix and matching within the same section. Lastly, modifications are largely cosmetic, with little to no bearing on stats at all. You could load a ship down with weapons, wheels, and the like, and have it preform no differently than a box with two wheels and a cannon. And once you reach Spaceships, there is no variety in specifications at all based on appearances.
However, there are some things Spore does very well. The Spore web site is brilliantly done. You can add buddies, or just artists you particularly like, to improve your in-game variety and quality. Or, instead of subscribing to a person in total, you can grab "Sporecasts", collections of items users can create, and update, that you can track. Plus, there are daily spotlights to highlight some of the better creations. There is a section for the most popular, but that has not been updated since Spore launched. However, finding artists you like may take time, and for the best results, frequent maintenance is required to remove the lesser quality items that Spore continues to download to add variety to your game.
Another item of interest are the inclusion of achievements. Much like an Xbox 360 game, this game has tasks set up, letting you warn badges that are good for bragging rights, or for giving yourself goals to accomplish to make continuing to play worth while. Like most games with these achievements, some are fairly easy to get (such as those awarded for simply unlocking the next stages of the game), to some time consuming, including some hidden for unusual tasks (such as completing the Creature stage without any leg pieces). This does add an extra incentive to continue playing, but only for those players who have completionist tendencies, or who care about such tasks.
There are plenty of gaps in the game left to fill, and plenty of room for addition options, both with assets and gameplay. And if The Sims line is any indication, be prepared for a stream of expansion packs to begin being released. This is not a bad thing for some players, who will happily pay to improve the game, but it may seem like extortion to other players, who feel they have paid for an incomplete product. Even The Sims originally was ultimately fairly limited, until the expansions brought the game completely to life. Maybe, in the future, we will see a massive Spore, with a huge amount of variety, deep, engrossing gameplay, and little monotony and repetition. However, that game isn't here yet. As it stands, Spore is decent, but will tire quickly until some new blood is injected into it.
Rating: 3.5 - Good
Product Release: Spore (US, 09/07/08)
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